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Scotch At $150 A Sip

Marc Pendlebury saw water when many saw the desert. He gave up a life of computers to sell whisky at $4,700 a bottle.



It was his love for the finest things in life that spurred on this computer science graduate to open up South Africa’s first shop selling nothing but whisky.

The son of a butcher, Marc Pendlebury was in his early twenties when he tasted his first drop of whisky. Soon it became his drink, while he was a computer science student in the United States.

He moved back to South Africa in 2004, landing his first job as a developer then later becoming a performance manager. A few years in the job, Pendlebury became a business analyst in the financial services sector. As the years went on, Pendlebury was progressing from being a casual whisky drinker to one who wanted to know more about it.

A gift of an 18-year-old Glenfiddich single malt Scotch that would become a catalyst in his appreciation for premium whiskies.

“I knew it was a special bottle. Obviously, it was expensive. It wasn’t something you saw everywhere. It was older than most whiskies. It was one of the catalysts on my journey,” says Pendlebury.

“I remember vividly, even at my age then, that bottle lasted me over a year. Most guys at the age of 22 or 23 are not going to keep a bottle like that for a year. For me it was on a special occasion. I poured myself one, and my friend was a whisky enthusiast as well, so we’d pour this whisky every now and again. We’d share a moment and make it memorable.”

So, when Twitter came along, Pendlebury opened an account and called it. Here he would exchange views and facts about whiskies with likeminded tweeters.

But 140 characters were not enough. So he started a blog with the same name. From here his following grew.

Between his job and his new found hobby of writing about whiskies, and visiting distilleries around the world, he had an epiphany. He realized that South Africa didn’t have a shop that sold only whisky.

Most South African’s bought their whisky from wholesalers that didn’t bother to sell high-end bottles of whisky.

“It made sense that a store like this would work, if you kind of captured the market. Four or five years ago, I wasn’t ready to do it. I started thinking about it more and more. And I kept thinking that if no one has done it and I’m ready to it then I’ll give it a go,” says Pendlebury.

“I was bored, it was corporate. It was at that stage in my career where I’d look around for another job or gone to my senior managers and said ‘look I need a bigger challenge.’”

Instead he quit.

And with no business training or retail experience Pendlebury opened a whisky shop. He learned he had to raise capital for this store. He sold his car and scooter, and cashed in his provident fund. Other challenges were finding a location and cutting through red-tape of getting a liquor license which delayed the shop from opening.

But in 2012, there was Christmas cheer from South African whisky enthusiasts. Four years after Pendlebury started the blog, he opened one of South Africa’s only whisky boutique stores at the swanky Hyde Park Corner.

“It’s more affluent than anywhere else in Joburg. And it’s not about mass volume of traffic but there’s a good conversion in the traffic you do get. There’s far fewer people coming through the door, but in terms of disposable income, it’s much higher,” says Pendlebury.

“What I don’t need is to set up a store that has a 100 people come in a day but only 10 people buy. I’d rather have 15 people come in a day and 10 people buy. That’s kind of what I’m seeing.”

The bare brick walled store is quiet, lined with bottles of liquid sunshine placed on wooden shelves from the cold tiled floor to the ceiling. The bottles come from Japan, Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

Near the back of the store are the premium bottles, shelved in a glass door cupboard.

This is where you will find a Bruichladdich single malt Scotch going for R3,300 ($310) a bottle, a Port Ellen for R8,700 ($830) and a 40-year-old single malt Glenfiddich, waiting to be picked up by a customer for R49,000 ($4,700).

And the best way to enjoy a glass of these pricey whiskies is fine, neat and without ice, in a quiet corner.

“A fine whisky should be drunk in a fine manner. It should be about appreciating what’s there and that means the circumstances allow you to appreciate what’s there. If you’re overwhelmed and your senses are being bombarded, how are you really going to appreciate a 21-year-old Balvenie? With that said, whisky is very versatile but don’t waste your time on something fine if you can’t appreciate what it is,” says Pendlebury.

Since the store opened, the 33-year-old says any entrepreneur that doesn’t think they need to work hard is kidding themselves.

“It cannot be any other way, if you’ve managed to raise capital for a project, and you’re the driver behind that project, you have to be involved particularly in the short term to an extended amount. My hope is after a year or so, I can remove myself from the daily running of the business. That’s not my specialty,” says Pendlebury.

“Last night, as an example, I worked from 10 until three, closed the store, came in with one of my guys and cleaned the store. Who else is going to do it? I mean, this is my baby. In time, the less skilled daily requirements of the business can be done by other guys.”

With nearly two years of running the store, Pendlebury says cash flow continues to be a challenge, along with keeping the customers happy. At least for now he’s found a solution to keeping customers satisfied – by bringing in new brands every two weeks.

“I’m very pleased with the performance. But obviously, as a new business, cash flow is still an issue. My cash flow is managed on a daily basis to make sure I can pay for the right stock, at the right time, I can pay my overheads, I can pay my rental for the space, pay for salaries, etc. So it’s still tight, we’re definitely not out of the clear yet, but we’re on our way to being safe. I can see that it is viable and that with a little bit more time we will be sustainable as well,” he says.

Besides running the store, Pendlebury offers tasting evenings where he shares the history and knowledge about whiskies – to the last drop.


How To Become A Billionaire: Nigeria’s Oil Baroness Folorunso Alakija On What Makes Tomorrow’s Billionaires



One of only two female billionaires in Africa, with a net worth of $1 billion, Nigeria’s oil baroness Folorunso Alakija elaborates on the state of African entrepreneurship today.

The 69-year-old Folorunso Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset. Famfa Oil’s partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Alakija’s first company was a fashion label. The Nigerian government awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license in 1993, which was later converted to an oil mining lease. The Agbami field has been operating since 2008; Famfa Oil says it will likely operate through 2024. Alakija shares her thoughts to FORBES AFRICA on what makes tomorrow’s billionaires:

What is your take on the state of African entrepreneurship today? Is enough being done for young startups?

There are a lot of business opportunities in Africa that do not exist in other parts of the world, yet Africa is seen as a poor continent. The employment constraints in the formal sector in Africa have made it impossible for it to meet the demands of the continent’s working population of which over 60% are the youth. Therefore, it is imperative we harness the potential of Africa’s youth to engage in entrepreneurship and provide adequate assistance to enable them to succeed.

Several governments have been working to provide a conducive atmosphere which will promote entrepreneurship on the continent. However, there is still a lot more to be done in ensuring that the potential of these young entrepreneurs are maximized to the fullest. Some of the challenges young startups in Africa face are as follows: lack of access to finance/insufficient capital; lack of infrastructure; bureaucratic bottlenecks and tough business regulations; inconsistent government policies; dearth of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills; lack of access to information and competition from cheaper foreign alternatives.

It is therefore imperative that governments, non-governmental agencies, and the financial sectors work together to ameliorate these challenges itemized above.

The governments of African nations should provide and strengthen its infrastructure (power, roads and telecom); they should encourage budding entrepreneurs by ensuring that finance is available to businesses with the potential for growth and also commit to further improving their business environments through sustained investment; there must also be a constant push for existing policies and legislation to be reviewed to promote business activities.

These policies must also be enforced, and punitive measures put in place to deter offenders; government regulations should also be flexible to constantly fit the dynamics of the business environment; corruption and unethical behavior must be decisively dealt with and not treated with kid gloves. We must empower our judicial system to enable them to prosecute erring offenders with appropriate sanctions meted out. There should be no “sacred cows” or “untouchables”. The same law must be applied to all, no matter their state or position in the society; non-governmental organizations can also provide support for them through training and skills acquisition programs that will help build their capacity; they could also provide finance to grow their businesses; more mentorship programs should be encouraged, and incubators of young enterprises should be supported by public policy aimed at improving the quality of these youths and their ventures; and also, avenues should be created where young entrepreneurs will be able to connect, learn and share ideas with already successful well-established entrepreneurs.

What, according to you, are the attributes needed for tomorrow’s billionaires?

There is no overnight success. You must start by dreaming big and working towards achieving it. You must be determined to succeed despite all odds. Do not allow your setbacks or failures to stop you but rather make them your stepping stone. Develop your strengths to attain excellence and be tenacious, never give up on your dream or aspiration. Your word must be your bond. You must make strong ethical values and integrity your watchword. Always act professionally and this will enable you to build confidence in your customers and clients. 

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The Sun King Bows Out: Legendary Hotelier Sol Kerzner Has Died



Solomon (Sol) Kerzner, one of the world’s most innovative hoteliers, founder of the Southern Sun hotel group, Sun International and Kerzner International, has died of cancer surrounded by his family at the Kerzner family home, Leeukoppie Estate, in Cape Town, South Africa. Always a maverick, Kerzner was a titan of the hotel and resort industry who redefined the scale and scope of integrated destination resorts worldwide. He was 84.

The son of Russian immigrants, Kerzner was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1935. The youngest of four and the only son, Sol was a working class boy from a rough neighbourhood but he would grow up to become one of the most influential entrepreneurs in South Africa. Having founded the country’s two largest hotel groups — Southern Sun and Sun International — Kerzner would go on to achieve international prominence with groundbreaking resorts that helped transform the tourism industries not only of his home country but of Mauritius, The Maldives, The Bahamas, Dubai and other important international destinations.

Kerzner’s career in hospitality began in 1962 when he decided to leave the accounting profession and purchased The Astra, a small inn in Durban, South Africa. Kerzner quickly transformed this rundown establishment into one of the most popular hotels in the area, a success that whetted Sol’s insatiable appetite for innovation and demonstrated a trademark ingenuity that would define his 60-year career.

Kerzner’s most monumental and controversial achievement was the creation of Sun City.  Here, in an area north of Johannesburg where there were no roads and no infrastructure, Sol imagined and delivered the most ambitious resort project in all of Africa. Commencing work in 1975, over the next ten years, Kerzner built four hotels, a man-made lake, two Gary Player golf courses, and an entertainment center with an indoor 6,000-seat arena, which played host to a world-class roster of artists including Queen, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli, Shirley Bassey, as well as huge world title fights, and many other spectacular events. Once again, Kerzner defied the naysayers to train a best of breed workforce and to operate Sun City on a totally non-racial basis. Even the most cynical of visiting overseas journalists had to concede defeat in trying to find racism behind the operation of the vast resort.

Sol is survived by his children Andrea, Beverley, Brandon and Chantal and ten grandchildren. His eldest son, Howard ‘Butch’ Kerzner died in 2006.

Sol Kerzner will be buried at a small, private funeral with only immediate family in attendance.

Back in 2014, the Sun King was featured on the cover of Forbes Africa for the 3rd Anniversary Issue of the magazine.

In 2018 he was honored with the Life Time Achievement award at the All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLAs).

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The French Silhouette In Africa: How This Designer Started Her Own Business Despite A Shortage Of Funds



From glamorous Paris to gritty Johannesburg, Zazi Nyandeni arrived with $2,700 and updated sartorial skills to showcase haute couture on South Africa’s racks and runways.

With just $2,700 in her bank, transferred from her savings account in France, Zazi Nyandeni returned home to the South African fashion industry with her freshly-minted talent. But if Paris was school, Johannesburg proved to be university. Qualifying was never easy.

About 53kms from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport is Constantia Kloof, a scenic, upmarket suburb in the West Rand, where we meet Nyandeni, the up-and-coming 25-year-old fashion entrepreneur whose brand, Zazi Luxury, has showcased in Paris, the fashion capital of the world.

“I wasn’t really introduced to fashion, but more so to art,” recalls Nyandeni of her early days. “Ever since primary school, I was exposed to paintings, drawings and music by my father when he would come back with artworks from his travels.”

She thought she was going to become a doctor growing up because of her choice of subjects in high school but still pursued design to stay close to art. Thankfully, her parents picked up that she was artistically-inclined and gave her their unstinted support.

In 2013, after high school, Nyandeni took the plane out of South Africa and went on to study fashion at ESMOD, an international fashion design and business school in Paris. She wanted to express herself without saying a word, and found her way. She spent close to six years there, studying full-time for the first three years and partially for the last two, whilst freelancing and interning for various companies in the glitzy city.

“I love to draw and not really to sew. For my first freelance job, I went for a company that would help me work on my weaknesses; I went to Loon Paris boutique and worked on my sewing techniques. They were very strict and meticulous when it came to sewing and I learned a lot about technique,” she says.

The intense training meant that even the inside of a garment had to be as exquisite as the outside and if the hand stitch was incorrect, she had to undo and redo it all over again.

READ MORE: Conscious Fashion: ‘So Much More You Can Do With Discarded Clothes’

“When I asked ‘aren’t we wasting material’, they would say ‘I’m wasting their time’,” she laughs.

The eager fashionista was juggling two jobs; the other was at a PR agency named DLX Paris, which was sourcing brands for international celebrities like American singer-songwriter Kelly Rowland.

She soon came to a realization that in fashion, there is nothing new, which is when she moved to fabric store Boutique Malhia Kent, a French manufacturer of haute couture.

Nyandeni has a soft spot for weaving. She clearly adores fabrics, and this is apparent in the weaving machine she has at her Constantia Kloof studio, placed in a corner of one of the work rooms.

She says her weaving differentiates her from the other designers, as she compares herself to South Africa’s Laduma Ngxokolo of MaXhosa Africa and Greek fashion designer Mary Katrantzou.

“You can make a silhouette similar to somebody else but the real interesting part is the fabric, so Malhia Kent deals with fabric customization, and this is where I learned that in the world of fabric, you are two years ahead of the industry; like Chanel orders their fabric from Malhia Kent,” she says.

That was the space she wanted to be in.

So in between jobs, Nyandeni co-founded Garbage, a business that looked into environment-friendly garments.

“We wanted to speak on the notations of how do we pick up the fashion industry and say that there are other ways to look glamorous and chic and it doesn’t have to be wasteful and terrible to the environment.”

The business ran for a year and sold a few garments, but sadly, collapsed. That inspired the birth of an idea, one that would solely work for her, a business that would include all that she had learned from fashion school and the stylish streets of Paris. She had also personally worked with Katrantzou, building a portfolio and a first collection. She was ready and had under $2,700 in savings.

READ MORE: Owning The African Narrative

Nyandeni returned home to South Africa and registered her company in 2018.

“In my heart, I thought I was going to be able to buy sewing machines and a small car to travel back and forth for business, be able to get staple fabrics that people would love,” she says.

It was not the case, but she started the business despite a shortage of funds.

“I called it Zazi Luxury because it speaks to more of the inside and outside of a garment and the technique used which is the core of the business. The inside is about matching the outside; I should literally be able to wear it inside out, and if not, it’s not [a Zazi Luxury product].”

Her first client was South African comedienne Tumi Morake referred by a mutual friend, and later actress Zenande Mfenyana, but currently, her clients are also doctors, lawyers and drawn from the corporate world.

“In the beginning, the business was focused on couture and it developed a bit more into business such as television, dressing anchors, and we also have ready-to-wear garments. We are broadening the business to other boutiques too.”

Zazi Luxury recently showcased at South Africa Fashion Week. This year, she will be working on a fourth collection that will be both couture and basic women’s workwear garments but featuring the Zazi aesthetic.

Zazi Luxury currently employs seven young enthusiastic fashionistas; one of who is Lebohang Ketlele, who has worked with Nyandeni for two years.

“I am a dressmaker and stylist. I don’t think I would know the things I know now if I wasn’t working here, we have dressed celebrities and that is a great experience,” attests Ketlele.

Inspired in Paris, but made in Africa, Zazi seems to have made the cut.

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